Disability can mean many things to many people, but when it comes to qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits, there is a very specific meaning to the term. When the Social Security Administration looks at an application for Social Security disability benefits, they are looking to make sure that the applicant meets very specific criteria.
First of all, the agency will look at how much income the applicant is bringing in every month. Applicants who are engaged in “substantial gainful activity”—which in 2015 means earning more than $1,095 per month—are generally not considered disabled. Applicants who earn less than this amount are then evaluated to determine how serious their condition is and the extent of their ability to engage in work activity.
In order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, the severity of the disabling condition must be such that the applicant is unable to engage in basic work-related activities. What this means exactly depends on the specific circumstances of the applicant’s case. If the applicant’s condition does interfere with these activities, then the agency will look to see whether the reported condition can be found in the agency’s official listing of disabling conditions, and whether it meets the criteria listed under that listing. If the condition doesn’t have a listing, the agency will determine whether it can be matched to another condition of equal severity which is on the list. If not, the applicant’s case will not move along in the process.
If so, the next question is whether the applicant’s disabling condition would permit him or her to engage in work he or she previously performed. If not, the agency will look at whether the applicant would be able to perform any other work, given the disabling condition. If the condition is severe enough to prevent any other work activity, the applicant will qualify for disability.
As can be seen, the definition of disabled for purposes of qualifying for Social Security disability benefits is fairly strict. Those seeking to qualify for benefits, therefore, should work with an experienced legal advocate to ensure they put together the most thorough application possible. An experienced advocate can also help an applicant if an appeal becomes necessary.